There are artists out there still performing and recording their heart and soul, regardless of the upside down economy of the current music industry.
The Underground Echo would like you to hear what Paul Dillon Ex (Mercury Rev/Sparklehorse/Longwave) has been up to in his new home of Portland, OR.
PD- Revolver is the perfect studio for me really. It’s in a beautiful old building in SE Portland and has a big, live room with high ceilings, old hardwood floors, and natural light during the day which helps avoid the dissociative ‘bunker effect’ that can sometimes happen when you’re recording. It’s also nearby Sizzle Pie pizza and all of my favourite bars, which doesn’t hurt.
JR- I understand there are some guests on this album. How did that all come together?
PD -Well, Collin Hegna plays bass on most of the record. Peter Holmstrom(The Dandy Warhols, P.I.A.)came in to put some noisy, textural guitar stuff down and he lives in Portland too obviously. The Mercury Rev folks helped out when I was doing overdubs with Matthew Cullen in upstate, New York where they live. So, all just friendship and proximity really.
JR- I see that Larry Crane from Jackpot Studios did the mixing. Did you let him have full control or where you there for every mix? If so, what's it like to work with Larry Crane? Does he have a certain method to mixing?
PD- Well, the recordings are pretty dense and we had to mix two songs a day so I was there the whole time. Also, Larry keeps pretty strict hours, which is totally understandable, so if it’s not done within the time alotted, it’s not done. Working with him at Jackpot was kind of a dream come true actually as I’ve been an avid TapeOp and Elliott Smith fan for years.
JR- What was the easiest song to record and what was the most challenging?
PD- Again, time was a factor here. There was a day when Plucky couldn’t make it into the studio and we had to do something, so that’s when ‘Mistakes’ got recorded. I started off with a preset drumbeat from an Omnichord and it came together pretty quickly. Funny really as that’s a lot of people’s favourite track. We had Mitch from 1776 come in and play drums on that one. The most challenging would probably have been ‘Hole In Your Soul’, but that was mostly just at the mixing stage. I’m sure Collin would have a totally different perspective on that question.
JR- How do you usually come up with song material? Do you use a certain formula? Start with a particular instrument?
PD- It’s always just me and a guitar. I try to make notes as soon as ideas come to me. The iPhone’s ‘Notes” app and built in recorder is invaluable for this reason.
JR- How are the songs relaying over a live performance? Do you find any big differences live versus recorded in the way you think the songs should be?
PD- Well, so far there have only been a handful of shows. I played on the acoustic stage at CACS last year while I was still in the middle of the record and we just finished up a short west coast tour where the band consisted of me, Plucky & Chris Cook from 1776 on Bass and backing Vox. It was tough at first as all I could hear was what was missing but it’s sounding really good now and I almost prefer the simplicity of playing as a three piece. I play through two amps and use some loop pedals and delays too, so that fleshes out the sound quite a bit.
JR- Officially, is the band just two members? Or is it a open door to musicians to come and go?
PD- The band is really amorphous in the studio, I’m the only person who plays on every track of the record, but Plucky would have been too if he didn’t have to miss a day. Other than that it is a really open door type of thing. We like to have our friends around.
JR- How would you describe a Miracle Falls show to be like? Are you finding venues to be adequate for your performance needs?
PD- We like to play loud and preferably at night.
JR- You have a couple of songs with references to the "Sun". I know Portland is not very sunny at certain times of the year. Do you think the Portland climate effects the way artists write?
PD-All of these songs were written in New York, aside from See Stars which was written in New Orleans, so you’ll have to ask me again after the next record. But in answer to your question, yes. I do expect that the lack of sun will mess with my head a bit. I grew up in Dublin, so I’m used to bad weather but I do crave sunlight. We’ll see.
JR- I know a lot of musicians play in several projects at the same time. Has it been hard to coordinate a live band as far as personnel for the shows?
PD- Yes, that’s always an issue, I’ve been lucky so far though. It’s hard these days since there’s no money in music anymore. You usually have to either be independently wealthy or work really hard at something other than music to be able to spend the time and money necessary to be in a band. It’s a completely insane venture financially, emotionally and spiritually but every now and then you get reminded that it’s not all for naught.
JR- I want to thank Paul Dillon for taking the time to chat with The Underground Echo. For those of you in the Pacific Northwest,